East Thurrock 1, Kingstonian 1
ROCKS keeper Jamie Riley was man of the match despite being one of three players sent off in a controversial first game of the season at Rookery Hill.
The sides were forced to share the points after Dean Lodge gave Kingstonian the lead on 29 minutes before Kye Ruel equalised after 52 minutes.
On the hottest day of the year, the game was packed with incident and splattered with controversial refereeing decisions.
The hosts were reduced to nine men and Kingstonian to 10 as three goals were disallowed.
K’s will feel aggrieved not to have taken all three points and even thought they had when with minutes to go substitute forward Wade Small latched onto a long through ball.
Riley came charging from his goal but was beaten to it by Small, who sent a speculative lob goal-wards.
Riley caught Small late and as the ball bounced into the net, the referee blew his whistle.
He brandished a red card for Riley and gave a free kick, leading to throngs of abuse from Kingstonian fans and players, angry the goal wasn’t going to stand.
That action-packed end to the game was in keeping with what had come before.
Rocks started well but K’s and wasted a host of chances before they took the lead in bizarre circumstances.
After 29 minutes nippy left-winger Dean Lodge struck a shot that hit the bar and the inside of the post before crossing the line.
As he wheeled away to celebrate, the home players argued it hadn’t crossed the line.
But the referee’s assistant raised his flag to indicate a goal.
East Thurrock levelled when Ruel tapped home after Sam Collins had knocked down Sam Higgins’ great cross.
Steve Sheehan and Andre McCollin were then given their marching orders after becoming involved in a scuffle.
McCollin registered his dissatisfaction at a late Sheehan tackle on him by head-butting the Rocks defender.
McCollin was given a straight red and Sheehan a second yellow.
On the cusp of half-time, East Thurrock were denied a leveller when winger Kris Newby tapped the ball in, but was harshly adjudged to have been in an offside position.
Just after the restart, K’s also had a seemingly legitimate goal disallowed when McCollin was deemed to have fouled the keeper as he headed home a ball Rocks had failed to clear.
East Thurrock: Riley, Sammons, Stephen, Sheehan, Peddie, Hall, Newby, Gilbey, Higgins, Ruel, Collins.
Echo MOM: Jamie Riley (East Thurrock).